Let’s make that Alan Pardew’s appearance on Goals on Sunday last week where he made some comments that cannot be misrepresented by journalists in the written media and we all heard Pardew make explicit statements about Mike Ashley’s football nous and temperament that were far from glowing. Who knows what Pardew is attempting but the manager is perhaps playing a strange game as he occasionally moves from Ashley-spin to overt criticism of his boss!
Everyone will have their own view but with the likely Pardew replacements – McLaren and Poyet now gainfully employed elsewhere with Kinnear’s confidence in himself so much that he travels to SJP with a bodyguard, perhaps Pardew’s hand has grown stronger in recent weeks.
But just read these words:
“Mike is a strong character who has been a success in his whole business life and is a genius in that world – but when you come to football the logic doesn’t quite fit.”
“He loves football but he sometimes can’t understand how it works, and it confuses and upsets him, and when he is upset he does things that aren’t brilliant for the football club.”
I wouldn’t describe those words as anything less than scathing. How long the manager can go around describing Ashley as a frustrated, ignorant cry-arse remains to be seen but when you put these comments into the context of earlier ones about the club being unable to compete financially with the likes of Southampton, Swansea etc. then it would appear Alan Pardew does actually have some balls.
It was also interesting to have it confirmed absolutely that United was running a sell-to-buy strategy in the summer as this fanzine is on the record as insisting was the case whilst others were taken in by fairy stories of United having £20m to spend.
However, where I do depart from Pardew is in his assertion that we, the supporters, expect to be competing with clubs upholstered with the money from Russian oligarchs or Abu Dhabi petro dollars. We know, very wealthy man that he is, Ashley is not in that category and it would be unrealistic for us to be even thinking about seeing Newcastle United spending that kind of money on players. What we do expect (I think) is to see our club do everything it possibly can to compete and frankly we’re not.
That brings me to Joe Kinnear’s notes in the programme for the Liverpool game. They would be laughable if they weren’t so transparently the work of another hand and well, so fundamentally, critically, horribly flawed.
This is what was said:
“The chasm that exists between the league’s six most commercially powerful clubs and the rest is significant and growing ever wider. Even putting the strongest four performers to one side, clubs like ours really have to over-perform in all areas in order to compete season after season with the likes of Liverpool and Spurs. Their last published accounts show turnovers of £169m and £144m respectively, compared with our £93m. While that gap is striking enough, it is in respect of commercial turnover where the real gulf is evident. Liverpool reported a commercial turnover for 2011-12 of £64m while Spurs reported £53mi. Ours, in contrast, was just shy of £14m, increasing to £17m for 2012-13. We cannot, at this time, compete commercially with the very biggest global brands in football because the hugely lucrative (sponsorship) deals will go their way. But what remains of the marketplace for the rest of us, we must and will fight for our share, and more. Through astute financial management and by maximising every commercial opportunity available to us, we will give ourselves the best possible chance of competing on the field with those whose strength off it makes them – on paper at least – untouchable.”
Words supposed to be from Kinnear – I know, I laughed as well.
Some of this on one level is absolutely true but it is far from the full picture. I would say of those clubs in that top six, we are most comparable to Spurs. They are over £50m+ ahead of us in turnover. Our commercial income is less than half of what Spurs have which begs the question, how?
Well, one possible explanation is Spurs – like every other club in that golden circle, does not give away things like advertising space of the type and volume enjoyed entirely free and gratis by Ashley’s company, Sports Direct. In the most watched league in the world, the club’s Finance Director, John Irving tells us the only reason Sports Direct’s logo is splashed over every available space is because they cannot sell the advertising and so inside and outside St James’ Park, at the training ground and all over merchandise the Sports Direct logo is ubiquitous. Conservatively, that level of exposure is probably worth around £10m p.a..
Then you have the simple fact that there appears to be no trace of any kind of commercial team at Newcastle United with the focus to get out there into the world and cut the deals that will narrow the gap with the likes of Spurs and allow us to strengthen the squad and compete to the absolute limit of our capabilities as a football club.
I just want you to read this line again though:
“Through astute financial management and by maximising every commercial opportunity”.
Really? Sports Direct copping for free advertising is “maximising every commercial opportunity?”
Sitting with our fingers up our arseholes for the last six years whilst Sunderland have become the stadium rock venue for the North East despite St James’ Park being much better appointed and perfect for transport, leisure and accommodation infrastructure and hosting major events – “maximising every commercial opportunity”. The belated decision to attempt to take this market for ourselves speaks volumes for the half-arsed attitude towards the club from the man at the top.
Then of course there is the question hanging over the club’s merchandise operation. I have the question – if it is absolutely in the interests of Newcastle United Football Club that its online merchandising wing – NUFCDIRECT to be a separate company, owned by Sports Direct and operated from Nottinghamshire, why isn’t every other football club in the country, queuing to put their online merchandising operation wholly in the hands of Sports Direct? When someone buys something online from NUFCDIRECT (Sports Direct), where is that supporters’ money going?
Read this again, as well: “Through astute financial management”. Would this be failing to conduct due diligence and understanding that as Chris Mort, Ashley’s previous Chairman put it, Newcastle United was a “bucket of holes”? Failing to understand that Shepherd and Hall had run the club into the ground for the previous ten years had mortgaged the club to the hilt and paid way over what it was worth despite previous potential buyers having had a look at the books, sniffed and then fucked it off (Belgravia and Polygon) – that kind of astute financial management?
Would astute financial management include sacking Allardyce and paying him £6m compensation? Or the campaign of lies that accompanied Kevin Keegan’s forced departure from the club and resulted in a further £2m payable in damages to an iconic figure in our club’s history? Would it include the grotesque relegation of 2009 which caused the loss in tens of million pounds for which Mike Ashley was the single greatest cause? Would it involve putting Alan Pardew, a manager, said to be now on borrowed time, on an 8-year contract little more than 12-months ago and who it will cost a fortune in compensation, should Ashley get upset at something and make one of those mad decisions he has become known for. That kind of astute financial management? Do I need to go on about Wise, Xisco, Gonzalez, Geremi, Smith, Viduka, Cacapa – God knows how much that bundle of joy cost United.
The simple truth is Newcastle United is not well-managed. All that has been achieved in the last six years is control of the costs and the only income that has increased is that from TV – something the club has absolutely no involvement with. The club is in the grip of a man with no ambition or love for our club. It is quite simply joyless defeatism and the sooner he can be persuaded to find a buyer and inflict himself on some other poor saps either in business or in football, so much the better for all of us.
What we can all do about it remains to be seen but I’d like to congratulate the organisers and participants behind the Time 4 Change protest that took place ahead of the Liverpool game last Saturday. Maybe the numbers on the march weren’t in their thousands but it’s my belief it is what happens next that is critical so we have a visible, well-organised and collective voice that is expressing disaffection not only at how United is being run but also in the wider game, which indeed allows men like Ashley to own football clubs and operate in a way that is completely unaccountable to the people who cherish them unconditionally – the supporters.
There is a seedling of something here with Time 4 Change and although most of our support is characterised by defeatism and apathy these days, the hard work should start now. We’ll learn if it was all a noisy one-off or whether this is something that can be built upon. Worky-tickets like me will be watching closely.
Oh, there was a football match on Saturday as well – one where the tactics and commitment was completely unrecognisable from the same fixture last season. There was resilience to us and it appears the tempo from last time out at Cardiff carried into a game with a team bang in-form and probably better than the one we were beasted by last season. That has to be continued.
You know where I’m going with this don’t you?
Yes, it’s that time of the year when we head down the road for another round of hostilities with the Chicken Town Eleven. I really don’t know what to make of them at the minute. They are going through managers like it’s going out of fashion but since O’Neill failed to live up to the hype their owner, Ellis Short seems to have his foot hard on the metal with shit or bust appointments in Di Canio and Poyet. When they made the Bruce and O’Neill appointments I wondered if they had the basics right and were on the way to being a half decent PL football club but happily that’s not the case and they are as shite as they have ever been with the look of relegation about them. One point for them on the board just before the end of October is pretty ominous but I am absolutely certain they will be telling each other a win this weekend over us is all they need to kick-start their season and blah-blah-blah.
Of course, a lot of that is true. Winning a derby can generate a feel-good factor that either side can build upon and let’s face it Poyet has an incredible record over us both as a player and as a manager. If any of our players travel to Albania-on-Wear imagining they can toss it off like they did in the first half at Everton et al then we are going to lose this game. I want United on raw meat all week.
A loss for Pardew is unthinkable and despite the win at Cardiff and the commitment at home to Liverpool, I remain to be convinced about him after last season – anything other than a top ten PL finish and he has failed as far as I’m concerned. This is a game Pardew and staff has to be targeting as a win. Playing the fall-guys for Poyet and allowing them to get off the mark with their first win, just isn’t on – especially after the horror-show of last season at SJP. I make no apology for it – I want, expect and demand a Newcastle United win in this game.
I’ll be honest though, I am finding these derbies to be a wee bit depressing. Our stock has fallen and will continue to fall under Ashley, whilst they also have an owner keen to sell their best players at a profit and get the high earners off the wage bill. Whatever ambition they had, has gone. Short is reining in the outlay these days. Newcastle United and Sunderland are sadly just there to make up the numbers in the PL. We are going nowhere with Ashley-Kinnear-Pardew and neither are they with Short-Poyet. The derby game has become an apology for what we should be doing, which is straining every sinew to push the top five or six and have a squad strong enough to take the cup competitions seriously as well. I think we’ve realised that if we can’t even win the derby, it’s unlikely to be topped by anything else we might do to make up for it – you know, like give the Cups a good doing.
Anyway, I reserve the right to be frothing at the mouth by the time the game kicks off this weekend.
Thanks to Gareth, Glenn and others last week whilst yours truly was AWOL. It seems there was something of a storm in a tea-cup about the political content of the website with one or two whingeing about our online political stuff. I’m becoming a bit irritated by this to be honest. The website is provided completely free of charge – you have the choice to pass over the bits you aren’t interested in, whilst we do a favour to some people we think have a worthy cause. To paint the people here in the TF bunker as rolling eyed Marxists attempting the overthrow of capitalism I think gives us a bit too much credit. I think one or two need to get us into perspective. We’re vaguely left-wing, none of us are interested in standing for political office. By and large we’ll only ever write about politics in the paper fanzine where the political world coincides with football to be honest.
We’ve had this before – some people don’t like short fictional stories online and some do, some don’t like the music, film and fashion stuff we do in the fanzine and online while others are bang into it, some people really didn’t like the old pagga photos we had in the fanzine years ago and some people thought they were a fantastic slice of social and football history, presented in the right way. Some people even slated us for going to the match and some people have presumed to imagine if they stamp their feet long enough, we’ll do what they want. We fucking won’t. End of.
Have a great week, I’m sure I’ll some of you drinking cold beer at 8:30am this coming Sunday.
Vive La Revolution!